Sales tax bill not likely to pass in current session

Published 8:29 pm Wednesday, May 27, 2015

With just eight days left in the legislative session, it doesn’t seem likely that a bill will be passed concerning a half-cent sales tax that was passed in 2012.

A proposed bill would give the Dallas County Commission permission to rescind a half-cent sales tax that was passed in 2012 and replace it with a new one.

“The house members decided not to go forward with the local bill to correct the problem, and that is where we are, so the problem is not corrected and Dallas County will just be in a terrible situation,” Sanders said.

The new tax would split the revenue between the county and the city school systems 90 to 10.

The current tax, which was originally only intended for the county, splits the money nearly 50-50. An audit conducted last year discovered the tax was illegally passed and by law was required to split the revenue based on the number of students between each school system.

Sanders and others were under the impression a few weeks ago that the bill would be introduced and would eventually pass, but it seems to have lost support.

“This [tax] was intended to correct a great deficiency, and that is what the half-cents was put on for initially,” Sanders said. “I just think we as legislators could have corrected it, and I think we should have corrected it.”

The original intent of the bill was to help the county school system meet the reserve requirement from the state’s education department.

According to Sanders, the city didn’t need the money or ask for the money in 2012 when the original tax was passed.

“I don’t know [what it will take to get the issue resolved],” Sanders said. “I’m concerned that financially the state may come in at some point and take over Dallas County for financial reasons, and I don’t think that is good for anybody.”

Selma City Schools Superintendent Dr. Angela Mangum said Wednesday the tax is not an issue with the city school system.

“Based on the information I received … that is a non-issue at this point,” Mangum said.

For the county school system, the tax could be the difference in having enough money to operate its schools.

“From the start, our whole approach has been through a legislative act. We were trying our best to recover the money that was intended to go to us,” said Dallas County Schools Superintendent Don Willingham.

Willingham said if nothing is done through the legislature the county is preparing for a referendum.

“It is disappointing, but if it has to go to a referendum we would feel comfortable and confident about that,” Willingham said. “We really thought this was the better approach to take to resolve this so we could get back to building our reserve and paying for our operations.”

Dallas County Commission Chairman Kim Ballard, who helped pass the original tax, is highly disappointed the bill wasn’t passed.

“It’s very disappointing. We passed a half-cent sales tax for the purpose of the county, and it was illegally passed. I’ll admit that,” Ballard said. “The thing about the intent of the bill was to pass something to save the school from takeover from the state. The city schools are in good shape financially, and the county schools are not.”